First of five-part series — a Giants trio of note.
In normal years — this is not that — so many players arrive to training camp looking good, feeling great and proclaiming they have lowered their body fat, increased their strength and are in the best shape of their lives.
Sometimes it is actually true.
The yo-yo effect is not what teams need out of their top players, a strong season followed by something less, a back-and-forth performance level that keeps coaching staffs and fans guessing. Once a young player is in the league a few years, an expectation is established. At times, it is almost impossible to figure out what a certain player is, with results riding high one year, down in the dumps the next.
Not every season is created equal for all players. Here are the three Giants with the most to prove in 2020.
If what you see is what you get, the Giants have not seen enough and have yet to get enough out of Carter. He is one of those players you would take every time if asked to pick a team coming off the bus. He is tall (6-foot-5), long-armed and built up to 250 pounds. He, as they say, looks the part. His production does not match his physique.
In 30 games spanning two seasons, Carter has 8.5 sacks, 82 total tackles and one forced fumble. He had 109 more pass-rush snaps in 2019 than his rookie year yet managed to increase his sack total by only one-half sack. Carter is far from a bad player and every so often he does something that makes you think more of that good stuff is surely coming. The Giants took him out of Georgia in the third round in 2018 and, after two years of development, it is time for Carter to blossom, working in a new defensive system and hopefully feeling the urgency to impress a new group of coaches.
This inclusion might surprise those who believe they know what they have in Peppers, entering his fourth NFL season and second with the Giants after two years with the Browns. He is a former first-round pick and arrived in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade, making him something of a marked man, as far as chronicling his rise or fall. The Giants insisted he be included in the mega-deal with Cleveland and, a year after that all went down, there is no definitive way to determine if Peppers is part of the solution on defense or simply an adequate starter but not a difference-maker.
Peppers graded out higher with the Browns in 2018 than he did with the Giants last season, according to Pro Football Focus, and missed the last five games with a fracture in his back. He brought a needed feisty disposition to a fairly milquetoast defense and is a force against the run. The Giants picked up his fifth-year option, but that does not guarantee a return in 2021. With the addition of Xavier McKinney in the draft, Peppers should be able to play a more defined strong safety role and that fits well with his skill set.
This big guy has not missed a snap at left guard in two seasons and is thought to be a fixture on the offensive line. However, his second season did not include the step forward the Giants anticipated. His overall grade from PFF slipped from 67.2 as a rookie to 58.4 last year. Most troubling, his run-blocking effectiveness dropped precipitously. His recognition, as far as reading the defensive fronts and picking up his assignments, did not improve nearly enough and at times seemed to regress.
Perhaps new offensive line coach Marc Colombo will get more out of Hernandez. It would help him if the situation at center is stabilized. Hernandez has the right attitude and takes seriously his job as a protector of the quarterback. It pains him when things go wrong and he is always accountable for his efforts, good and bad. This is a huge year for him. He is supposed to be part of the offensive line rebuild. Is he an ascending player?
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